Saturday, October 28, 2017

Knowing my Mother-In-Law..

Mother-in-law..I was never prepared for her!!
2012, I and Harsh were working in Hyderabad, when I'd met her for the first time, during her visit. I was totally worried; as if I am going for an interview, that I couldn't have afforded to lose. I borrowed a simple looking but traditional kurta (top) from one of my flatmates and flip-flops from the other one. According to me, nothing that I already had, made me look good enough for the first impression. Whether to wear spectacles or not? How to tie my hair or will leaving them loose would do..or would it not? I felt shorter than ever!! What if she rejected me just because I am quite shorter than Harsh..all kinds of things that could possibly go wrong, I had imagined already! And finally we met. Me, Harsh and my in-laws; in a restaurant for dinner. Right from where to sit on the table to what and how much to eat, I was being careful of everything. Dinner went well and for the first time I'd clearly figured, from where Harsh had got his taste buds.
Post dinner, when I was just starting to breath a little easier, out of nowhere, Harsh insisted that I should join them to his house for a bit informal chit-chat, in front of my prospective in-laws, leaving me a little opportunity to say a NO. Besides, I had to be careful that they shouldn't have an impression that I was the one who may have not liked them!! Tough situation to be in, trust me! And although, I did not want to immediately risk getting more attention in the first meeting itself; I couldn't say no and I joined them. Now this round of the interview was unplanned! My in-laws were sitting on chairs, and I was struggling hard to manage myself look good enough while sitting on a mattress lying on floor. Of course, my would-be-husband was still a bachelor then - so no beds, no sofas and just an empty room with a mattress lying on the floor along with those exactly 2 chairs in the entire house! 
Everyone was speaking about something. Something about the food, the locality, their experience of Hyderabad city, Harsh's flatmate and at times may be the weather. I just stuck to nodding myself in assertions without even forcing my mind to give anything an another thought. Because, here I was battling with this strange nervousness and a lot of attention from all the corners of this room. Quick and deep eye-contacts with Harsh were the only saving grace! Little did I know about this one more impromptu "HR Round", when Harsh winked me from the corners of his eyes, and whispered me to speak in their vernacular language, "Gujarati". I was terrified further. Speaking in a language, I knew a little about, while having to make sure I do not end up looking dumb on attempting it in the first place. Well, in Harsh's defence, I could speak good enough Gujarati for me to impress them and 4 years of attempting to understand the college gossips were definitely going to be my reference material. Haha!
Luckily, the evening ended on a positive note. I enjoyed talking to her and started to feel a tad bit more comfortable overall. She handed over some of the goodies (sweets, patras, biscuits etc.), she had got for Harsh, for me and my flatmates and with that I'd sensed the very first touch of her love for feeding the kids.
Next day they were leaving, and in return I too decided to gift something and got them a frame of Balaji. It took me more than an hour to decide the perfect gift, trying to not look too optimistic or rather forceful. Today, that photo frame hangs on our drawing room wall and she doesn't miss to mention about how I'd gifted it, to anyone who sees it for the first time.
This was just a beginning of an equation being formed between me and my mother-in-law. My first impression was very positive about her and the family overall, but it was nothing as compared to what I was going to learn in following 4 years of my marriage. We'd started talking on phone occasionally for marriage related stuff, once I and Harsh were officially engaged until marriage and Harsh pointed this later that I had started addressing her as 'Mummy' unknowingly as much, well ahead of time.
Are you by any chance thinking that, this is all cliched and it almost happens with everyone in the beginning days or may be years? In fact, it may have happened to you as well. To put across the complete picture, let me share that, even after a little while into the marriage, I used to be scared with thoughts of someone else attempting to make decisions for me. Understanding the rituals and the expectations of the new family, leaving some of my own behind was a dreary thought. But, I had no idea how much was I blessed until I started to spend time with her. She invariably takes equal care of me, if not more, as Harsh. Even a little gesture of helping her is immediately acknowledged and appreciated. Having grown up around families with typical Rajasthani cultured background, my whole perception was built around the stereotype that, doing household chores at in-laws' house was a married woman's so called "default" duty, but who gets appreciation for that? Well, I do!
Be it family trips or a weekend together, slowly and with time my perceptions towards "living with a mother-in-law" started to change.The stereotyped image of living at in laws doesn't hold true in my family, and every single day, I thank my luck for that.
My mother-in-law is a strong and confident woman. She is the glue that holds the family together. Having a strong influence on the family, she has set a very good example, in my eyes, for being not just a perfect wife, a caring mother, a disciplined teacher, a diligent principal but truly an "Ideal Naari". Those daily soap's protagonists were just fictional characters in my mind, until I'd known her.
I once told her on one of her birthdays that she is an ideal woman that I have ever come so close to and to whom I look up to, and she responded saying "Thank You, Dikra(child). That is very generous of you to say that. But I wish that I had a daughter and I could still love my daughter-in-laws equally, that would have been a real victory for me." And yet again, I was totally impressed by her humbleness!
I can keep narrating a list of incidents, that shaped my perspective of hers. Trust me, I had entered the family with a whole different school of thoughts and societal fears.I was always on a high alert, avoiding to hurt someone unintentionally. But, I had not imagined meeting someone like her, who would impact my school of thoughts after my father so much. So much, that I would start the journey towards discovering my own feminine side and becoming more sensitive & mature overall as a woman. Being a mother's pampered child gave me a little space for development in those areas earlier. Whether it is her surprising us on Valentine's Day, with our poster on the cover page of a newspaper or planning to buy a birthday gift for us..whether it is cooking not just my husband's favorite dishes but even mine when I visit home or making sure that everyone in the distant family interacts with me or kind of likes me.Whether it is being of a person, who cares for the female students in her school as much as her own daughters, or somebody who is, even at this age, so excited to take leadership commitments and initiatives for good things in life.. she does it all with grace.
Dear Mummy,  This is not a blog post to just simply praise you, it is rather an effort of letting the people know, that an exemplary woman like you exists, a mother-in-law like you exists. An effort to break stereotypes. An effort as a woman myself, so that any new bride entering into an unknown family, gives a fair chance to understand her mother-in-law, rather than starting off with some age old beliefs...After all, a woman indeed is a woman's best friend!! You are a true inspiration and a role model as a woman for me and I'm sure for many other people out there, who have gotten a chance to know you personally and for the students who have taken education from you.You once quoted, "Find reasons to be happy", while sharing one of your life crisis experiences.This in itself shows how much positiveness you carry within yourself and also for the people around you. A term, mother-in-law, which in itself refers to "law" i.e. a system of rules, in it, is never a daunting thought for me, because of what you are, who you are! It is a pleasure to be your daughter-in-law, who takes additional efforts, to make this an affectionate relationship, not based of some societal norms or 'laws', but based on honest emotions.
You make me proud and you make me feel cheerful with your presence. Now that your 32 years of professional journey is nearing to its retirement, I and our whole family wishes you the best, with all our hearts. We wish that your upcoming journey is even more exciting, blessed and fun. We'll always be next to you, to celebrate this new phase of life. Wish you a happy retirement!

Mummy & Me 
ખૂબ ખૂબ આભાર,
તમારી નાની વહુ

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